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Vietnam Police Probe Church Land Dispute

ICC Note:

Police in Vietnam are finally responding to the month-long dispute over land claimed by the Catholic church. While an investigation is underway, the media has turned to attacking the church leaders for abusing their influence over members as a means of coming against the Communist government.

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1/29/2008 Vietnam (AP) Thousands of followers blocked the street Friday in the largest gathering, as many from outside Hanoi came to celebrate the 90th birthday of Cardinal Pham Dinh Tung. It was a rare scene in Vietnam, which typically does not tolerate any form of dissent.

The parishioners removed the iron gates to the 2.5-acre property, which housed the Vatican embassy until 1954 when the Communists defeated French colonialists. They also planted a giant cross at the building’s entrance and set up tents on the grounds.

Their actions violated Vietnamese laws, the New Hanoi newspaper said Tuesday.

Police in Hoan Kiem district, where the property is located, decided Saturday to launch an investigation into the crimes of damaging property, causing social disorder and obstructing officials from doing their duties, it said.

Church leaders have said they only want the land returned and are not advocating that parishioners clash with the government. Instead, they maintain the followers are holding peaceful vigils.

The Communist government says all land in Vietnam belongs to the state, and individuals and organizations are only granted land-use rights.

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